This is a French Bouchon bursting with not only Lyonnaise history but indulgent, French food.
So what is a French Bouchon? Quite simply, a casual bistro style restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise (and very French) food. This could mean anything from Salad Lyonnaise, foie gras, local sausages, roast pork or fish pie.
Traditionally they only use local ingredients available at the markets nearest the restaurants. This is as local and fresh as it gets.
The French setting is somehow magical and classically traditional, and the staff seem to love working here.
Cafe Comptoir Abel is quite simply an institution in the French city of Lyon. It is reputedly the oldest and most authentic bouchon in France, and the setting both inside and out is exactly as it was when it opened in 1726.
The French are so talented at preserving traditions as well as traditional methods and rituals in food, fashion and many industries, and then bringing them into the modern world in an irresistible way, and that is exactly what has been done with this restaurant.
The chef, Alan Vigneron has worked at Cafe Comptoir Abel restaurant for 37 years, and the menu has remained unchanged for 25 years.
But don’t think think for a moment this means it is old school or outdated. This place is so popular, you have to book weeks, sometimes months in advance just to get a table. It has caught the attention of some of the world’s most demanding food critics
The front part of the restaurant is a traditional French-style room with slatted ceiling, wooden floors and small wooden tables.
The walls are crammed with historical photos, signs and paintings preserved largely from the 20th century.
The menu is limited but there is enough there for any palette, with vegetarian options also available. There is a great wine list packed with Lyonnaise wines and champagnes.
The crawfish salad for entree was sensational and actually a very global dish, with fresh, tasty prawns with beans and finely sliced mushrooms. It would have been equally as delicious eaten overlooking the ocean in Sydney’s Bondi such is the global reach of so much French food.
The dressing was light but tasty.
I was nervous about the main course as I am not mad about fish or pastry or cream. I let the waiter talk me into it. And what a brilliant decision that was.
The fish soufflé ( I would call it more of a flaky pastry style pie) was to die for. Served in a metal dish swimming in light cream sauce with mushrooms, it was delicately served on a plate with rice as the side.
The taste was crunchy but soft, rich but clean and bursting with flavour. I could never have imagined it would be that good.
This fabulous restaurant, Cafe Comptoir Abel screams of authenticity, and in the world within which we all now live, this type of experience is rare and a true luxury.
My only criticism is that talking on cell phones in the restaurant should be banned as it completely destroys the otherwise exceptional ambience. Definitely pop a meal at a bouchon on your bucket list. It is so fulfilling.
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